'You Are Welcome!': U.S. Delegation's Message of Peace Received Warmly in Pakistan
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To the cheers of a teeming group of Pakistanis, we walked on stage holding anti-drone signs and pictures of children who have been killed in drone attacks, and delivered an apology for the death of innocent people. "We want you to know that these Americans you see here have been fighting for years against this drone policy, and will continue to do so until we put an end into to these barbaric attacks. We want to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters in this region," we told the crowd.” Their response brought tears to our eyes. "You are welcome! We want peace!,” they chanted over and over, smiling, waving and cheering.
Our delegation’s call for peace, and the pictures of us with our anti-drone signs, have been carried on the Pakistani television and print media all week long. Millions of Pakistanis have seen us and heard our message. As one Pashtun man told us, putting his hand over his heart, “If you came here to win our hearts and minds, you have won mine.”
We aren't under any illusions that our single delegation will by itself abolish the drone strikes and transform the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan to one based on peaceful cooperation. But we are convinced that current U.S. policy towards Pakistan, with its emphasis on military might and marginalization of negotiations as a means of trying to address Pakistan's security problems, is dangerously misguided and counterproductive, feeding an endless cycle of violence. Americans and Pakistanis are being taught to fear and distrust each other, instead of being encouraged to seek political resolutions of conflicts. Such a short-sighted policy won't make Americans more safe. It's time to fundamentally re-think U.S. policy towards Pakistan, and an important step forward is for Americans to see Pakistanis in the tribal areas as fully human.